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September 9-17 , 2006
Sunday, September 17, 2006
After reading some good press about Ward Street Café:
... it was time to see if my luck from previous visits would improve.
It could be argued that brunch
is the lamest meal to use as an example of a restaurant’s abilities because the true effort goes into
(the higher ticket) dinner. This could account for a lackluster mid
day meal, but it is also important that customers aren’t “warded” off
by subpar chow. Whatever comes out of the kitchen should in some way
reflect the general approach of the eatery in question.
... which was described as Turkish style eggs. I imagined a touch of spice in this vegetarian dish, but it turned out to be a simple scramble with some chopped onion and mushrooms accented by a pool of liquid given off from the semi-raw red bell peppers and squash. I guess I won’t be ordering scrambled eggs next time I’m in Turkey…
Chubby got the huevos rancheros ($8.95):
... which was
a better selection than mine by virtue of the fact that crispy
bits were involved and the eggs were nicely cooked. Sadly, the overall effect
was on the greasy side and the grated cheese would have profited from
The people who work here are friendly and I could see how it has neighborhood hangout appeal (I’m always happy to see a Starbucks alternative.) They use Capricorn coffee which they serve in big cups to linger over on the patio outside.
Friends have told me that they have had a good dinner here recently, so maybe we were just was out of luck today, but we won’t be rushing back soon.
From today’s Bunrab email, Morton writes:
Loved the report on Ad Hoc, it looks like my dream restaurant. I'm headed to Napa in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to eat there. Just one question: How do you think they would handle food allergies? The Mrs. is allergic to shellfish (one of the more common food allergies). So if they have scallops on the menu, do you think they'd sub them out? Or would we just be out of luck? I hate the idea of driving up to Napa to try out a restaurant, only to be turned away.
I too was wondering about vegetarian, vegan
and allergy alternatives and asked our waiter how they address this
issue. He explained that the kitchen doesn’t stock alternate items to sub out (we were
told that one waiter asked if they could grill some zucchini for a
vegetarian and the chef motioned around showing there was no zucchini.)
What they did do for last night’s carn-avoiders was to serve
a robust portion of the mushrooms (the same ones that were used in
the tri-tip dish.)
Run don’t walk to Ad Hoc.
Chubby and I formed an Ad Hoc committee to investigate Thomas Keller’s latest casual addition to Yountville’s main gaster-road.
It was the first night so we didn’t know what to expect. On one hand it was a much anticipated, Saturday night premiere by one of the best chefs ever. On the other hand, they orchestrated a soft opening, playing down the hype and allowing for some rehearsals beforehand. We didn’t know if we would encounter massive crowds or if everyone would fake themselves out into thinking that the no reservation policy (for smaller parties) and the long drive would meet with frustration. To our delight, we were seated immediately.
Laura Cunningham was keeping a watchful eye and looking chic in jeans (which is in keeping with the AH dress code.) I noticed that some of my favorite footwear (Converse Allstars) was how the runners were shod.
They keep the musical element out of the dining rooms of TFL and Per Se, but in their casual eateries they turn on the tunes. Their selections were fun and at the right volume to accompany (and not drown out) conversation.
Forget the tablecloths and stemware, this is a laid back, leave the dinner jacket at home, family style dining experience in an understated, but beautifully decorated setting.
The chef-determined, four course menu ($45.00 per person) means that you should come open to the experience. Trust them and you can’t go wrong, these people know what they’re doing. I wouldn’t flinch if they listed human flesh on their menu (it would probably be sourced locally and be freerange.) Tonight’s menu started with a collage of heirloom tomatoes that were grown in their own garden:
These pristine specimens were showcased simply; dressed with extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar and dotted with little baby green and opal basil leaves. Mozzarella was made in house earlier in the day. These marshmallow shaped lactose plugs were brined to a perfect salinity.
The generous serving of tri-tip:
...was cooked to a perfect medium rare. This flavorful hunk of beef was surrounded by a conserva of mushrooms with garlic and paper thin slices of lemon that had a tangy contrast with the umami of mushrooms and meat. The Brentwood corn on the cobb:
...was just heated through (the way I like it) before being bathed in a butter citrus bath and sprinkled with sea salt. No further adjustment was necessary for these ‘maizements.
... were roasted and coated with a puree of pepper which created a fragrant cloud around the slow cooked garlic. Each clove was scored lengthwise along their skin to allow for easy expulsion.
Figs are my favorite fruit and goat is my favorite cheese so I was pleased with the combo of Cypress Grove’s Humbolt Fog, fresh figs and a pot of orange blossom honey:
Both the cheese and the fruit were ripe for the eating. The only missing element for me was bread. But hey, let them eat…shortcake!
It was good to burn off a couple calories with the strawberry shortcake DIY kit:
The Lucero Farms organic berries were so fresh that their little hearts were still beating. I smothered them (humanely) in the vanilla crème chantilly and placed them atop the most delicious shortcake I have ever eaten. This warmed round of confectioner’s sugar dusted dough had a faint chewiness to the exterior which yielded to a tender, faintly sweet belly.
Knowing how TK and LC run a ship, it wasn’t a surprise that the service is extremely knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. We spotted staffers from their other restaurants down the street (TFL and Bouchon) who were on site to help maintain their consistent level of excellence.
Chubby can’t wait to come back to do more “research” for
a review. Ad Hoc plans to change their menu daily, but will stay with
this one for another day or two while they get up to speed.
Ad Hoc Restaurant
We started with halibut crudo ($12.50):
... which cloaked a layer of perfectly ripe, sliced avocado and was buttoned up with thin slices of radish. Rich, creamy, tangy and crisp, this dish had a nice balance of flavors and textures. They take out the “crude” and leave the “oh” in this ‘but.
A Dungeness crab salad ($11.95):
... was a delicious interplay of astringent, sweet, meaty and light. This refreshing apple, radish and cucumber dish was virtuous but not short on flavor.
The ravioli of the day ($8.50):
... was stuffed with cannoli beans and served in a tomato jus. Bits of bacon added a nice smoky compliment to the bean pillows. This was good, but not my fave.
The duck breast ($14.75):
... was cooked to a perfect rare and served with delectable, greaseless, deep fried squash blossoms.
The best deal in town are these popcorn ice cream sandwiches ($2.50 each):
The custard base is infused with roasted corn
before being churned into these cookie confined, hand held snacks.
The server instructed us to dip them into the
popcorn that blanketed
the plate. This sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy and fun dessert made
me scratch my head at how they could price these so low.
We received some great response to yesterday’s mail section. The chowhound site is definitely a hot button issue. Who knew? One fellow blogger thoughtfully pointed out some big issues that caused us to put the idea of a bunrab forum on hold for now. But we certainly appreciate the support and interest in this sector of the food community.
The Front Porch isn’t a place to go if you want to have an amuse bouche or vertical tasting. It’s a homey and friendly place where they are cooking up some fun eats. It’s hit and miss, but they are relatively new and the spirit is there.
I got the wild salmon carpaccio ($9.50):
... which was deliciously firm fleshed and accented with lemon oil. The salt cod balls were a waste of a fritter. The low temperature of the cooking oil allowed these to become greasy and heavy.
Chubby got the chicken liver appetizer ($6.00):
... which verged on overcooked. There was a nice mattress of toasted brioche and blanket of onion gravy to tuck in with the deep fried toxin filters.
These warm cornbread sticks:
... magically materialized with a ramekin of honeyed butter which acted as an adhesive agent in gathering the stray grains of salt sprinkled over the plate. Very tasty.
Chubby followed up the internal organs with the external part. His fried chicken ($11.00):
... had a crunchy crust which gave way to perfectly cooked meat. This organic bird was juicy, but it’s flavorful excitement ended at the borders and the middle bits would have been made more interesting with a buttermilk soak or longer brining. The bowl of black eyed peas and collards;
... was a good starchy compliment, but could have used a splash of vinegar to add dimension.
The winner was my Dungeness crab grit porridge ($11.50):
... which was comfort food in the form of a warm mush puddle flavored with shallots, lemon and hot pepper. Kernels of corn dotted this seafood and eat it dish.
The Front Porch is just the sort of place I like.
It’s funky mismatched furnishings and friendly staff create a casual backdrop for their homey chow.
Today’s bunrab email contained a request for a bunrab food forum due to the current climate on Chowhound (Google China, but with food.) Coincidentally, Sam posted about her recent unpleasant encounters (after they invited her to rejoin the dialogue no less.)
And I was taking my recent rash of unexplained, deleted posts personally. I had no idea that it was a frequent and common practice. Check out the comments on Becks and Posh to see who’s pissed and dissed.
Write us if you would be interested in a food forum here at the hutch. If there’s enough interest, we’ll look into getting one started.
I stopped in for breakfast at Boulange de Strawberry and I got a smoked salmon frittata ($6.00):
I expected a cold preparation, but it’s a hot hockey puck of an omelet criss crossed with a romanescoey lattice.
It’s heavy on the potatoes and light on the salmon (hey, for six bucks, what did I really expect?) The snipped chives were a distracting confetti to the eggs (which were cooked a little more than my preference) as well as the egg-helper (aka the abundance of potatoes.)
A slice of unadorned sourdough bread comes with this dish. It was fine, but would have been better toasted or with butter…or both. The salad greens were very nice. It was a shame that they reminded me of the Exxon Valdeez aftermath. I’m guessing that they made a bunch of vinaigrette and ladled some off the top without whisking the vinegar, salt and pepper that had all sunk to the bottom of the vessel. My salad was dressed with oil, lots of oil.
Don’t get me wrong, this eggy debacle hasn’t caused me to cross it off my list. but next time, I oughta skip the frittata.
La Boulange de Strawberry
Arc café’s red orb logo is a relief from the green coffee indicators that star on every other street corner. It’s cavernous, industrial space has a scattering of tables which were mostly vacant during our lunchtime visit.
This neighborhood spot serves up a lunch of salads, hot and cold sandwiches and a few specials including my flatbread ($5.95):
... which was constructed on a prefab Frisbee of bread. Slices of fontina, some spinach, goat cheese and roasted tomatoes made for an acceptable calorie replenishing event. The creamy tang of the goat cheese against the roasted tomato was pleasant, but unsatisfying in its war ration allocation over the warmed dough disc.
Chubby got the hummus salad special ($5.50):
... It was landmined with nicoise olives (unpitted) which caused him to sweep his plate with extra care. The beany puree could have used a drizzle of olive oil and a boost in the garlic department to take away the bedtime (zzzz…) to these ‘bonzos. A mesclun salad was feminized by cuke rounds and slices of untoasted baguette in this chickpea dish.
It became obvious that I was missing the point of Arc. It’s character is derived from it’s status as a WiFi (not a culinary) hotspot where people drop by for the friendly service and non-chain coffee experience (but the chow takes the backseat.)
From today’s bunrab email Kate writes:
I've been reading your site for a while now and just wanted to let you know how much I love it. It's so great for us not-as-intrepid locals. The hard part is not racing off to each restaurant after you post. Well, the good ones, anyway. And I was amused that you posted about the Ferry Market this Saturday. I was standing in line at Primavera and actually thought, "wonder if Gutenberg and Chubby are here". Well, you'd come and gone by the time I'd worked my way over from Berkeley. Anyway, I just wanted to say that the Yucatan tamales on the menu were amazingly yummy. I was put off by the egg, at first, but it soo worked. If they have them on the menu again, I highly recommend them. If only they had the breakfast/lunch stand at the Berkeley Market.....
Thanks for sharing your food "adventures."
We’ll be on the lookout for those huevo based tamales next time we spring over to the market. Thanks for the tip and the encouragement!
After our visit to Farmer
Brown for some tasty bar food,
Chubby decided to write a note after realizing that he suffered from
post prandial lap dandruff:
Dear Mr. Farmer Brown,
I really like your place a lot - yummy chow, nice folks and tasty drinks. What's not to love? Well, er, there is one teeny little thing I wanted to let you know about. You see, even though it is the '00's there are still some people who wear black fairly regularly and the cool cloth napkins that you use leave a galaxy of little cotton bits. It could be that I should embrace the farm experience and wear my overalls instead, but I thought you should know.
The farmer’s replied:
Thanks for the feedback! I agree -- the soft cotton napkins we use do often leave a lot of lint! But after much deliberation, we decided that the absorbent towels would still be so much better to tackle the fried chicken grease. Better than taking a starchy polyester napkin to the mouth, right? Fortunately, it's dim enough in the restaurant to not notice too much.
Please come back and see us soon! We'll look for the guy wearing overalls.
We’ll definitely be back for more yummy farm chow (and in the proper attire!)
Feed me once, Shang on Yu
I had heard that the sushi at Yu Shang was good, but I had serious reservations about getting Japanese food at a restaurant with a Chinese name.
... It’s like going to Casa Sanchez for pumpkin pie. Preconceptions are difficult to shake….
I entered and found that it’s a sushi bar on one side and a Mandarin restaurant on the other. A neighboring diner was digging into his Hunan chicken and spider roll when my Moriawase ($13.50):
... arrived. This combo of chef selected sashimi included hamachi, maguro, sake, and toro. The knifework and fish quality were good, but not great (but to be fair, the prices don’t make you expect top grade. The service was friendly and attentive in this under-populated lunch spot.
I don’t think I’ll rush back soon, but it’s a student budget friendly place that has probably seen a drop in business since ILM moved to the Presidio.
This would be a great restaurant to come to if you had multiple personality disorder…or maybe dining here could bring on this disease.
Chubby had much better luck with his recent visit
to a San Francisco favororite. Check out his latest review of the Blue Plate restaurant.
From today’s bunrab email Anne writes about the Civic Center Farmers’ Market:
I agree with you about the Marin Farmers Market. It's always felt kind of off to me as well. I used to go sometimes (I live in Mill Valley), but it was always such a mob scene, and there seemed to be a lot of that self-congratulatory Marin vibe there that I can't stand. My favorite FM is the Old Oakland one on Fridays, but I mostly can't get there during the school year. Many congratulations on your success at Telluride!!!
I’ll have to check out the Old Oakland market. I’ve
BTW, we are blown away by the insane number of recent visitors which have caused us some bandwidth issues. We apologize if you were temporarily blocked.
Thanks for stopping by our cyberhutch!
The Farmer’s Market at the Marin Civic Center:
... is a bit of a misnomer (unless you count tie-dye as a crop…well maybe just the crop tops…)
It was a crowded day in this mish mash of produce, prepared foods and flea market items. The most bizarre stand was the ATM plinth:
I guess that’s one cash crop they’re selling…
There are many good things about this open air market, but it always
feels kind of off to me. The multiple, inflatable jumping rooms make
it feel like I should buy a used car along with my berries and eggplant.
Marin Civic Center Farmers’ Market
The line at the Primavera stand:
... at the Saturday Ferry Building Farmer’s market was worth the wait. Luckily we ran into friends and caught up while our chow was prepared.
Tamales ($9.00 for two):
... were pretty tasty. The masa was studded with whole corn kernels in both my butternut squash and chicken mole starch cylinders. The unsauced squash tube was on the dry side, it could have done with a larger dose of butternut and jack cheese creaminess. The mole enrobed chicken maize hunk had a more enticing flavor and textural interest next to the toothsome black beans snowcapped with queso fresco.
Chubby got the better dish with his Chile Relleno ($10.00):
This green football was stuffed with pork that was slow cooked with Frog Hollow peaches, tomatoes and spices until the fruit dissolved into the tender meat to give it a fragrant sweetness that was accented by a nice caliente edge. It was dipped in batter and shallow fried until flavor activation was achieved. The accompanying refried beans and guacamole were so tasty that he didn’t realize that they had forgotten to give him the tortillas that were supposed to accompany this dish.
Taylor from The
Fatted Calf checked out our grub and said that he
had the chilaquiles for breakfast. Hmmm we noticed that him eating
this before. We will have to get that next time.
San Francisco Ferry Building
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